Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Jack Fitzpatrick

JMU Football thoroughly dominated one of the top teams in the Sun Belt East. Again. 

The Dukes went to Georgia State and played bully ball for 60 minutes of action and came away with a 42-14 win that was not as close as the final score may indicate. 

For 70 percent of the game, JMU had the ball and because of that sizable difference in time of possession, the Dukes outgained the Panthers by 339 total yards and held one of the best quarterbacks in the Sun Belt to just 82 yards passing. This was a return to the level of dominance we saw against Georgia Southern and Marshall.

Jordan McCloud Is Still Getting Better

We all know the schtick now, Jordan McCloud had one day of QB1 reps in Fall Camp. Then was thrust into the starting role in the second half against Bucknell. We Don’t have to rehash the origin story all that much. 

Since then, he has just gotten better each and every week and it culminated in his performance against Georgia State. The senior signal caller causally had 411 yards of total offense and contributed on all six touchdowns. He ran for two and passed for four. 

That is insane. 

Oh, by the way it was his birthday. 

On Saturday against Georgia State he notched season highs in completion percentage, total yards, total touchdowns and set a new career high in rush yards. The one blemish he had was an interception early in the first quarter (his third straight game with an INT) but unlike weeks past, it didn’t impact his play and he continued to be locked in and dominate the Panthers secondary. 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season.

JMU Is The Best Team In The Sun Belt

The Dukes are coming off their best game of the season running the football. For the first time all year JMU rushed for more than 5.5 yards per carry against an FBS opponent!

That was without starting running back Kaelon Black for a majority of the game and star offensive linemen Nick Kidwell and Tyshawn Wyatt. And it’s not like Georgia State was bad against the run coming into the game. The Panthers defense ranked 6th in EPA allowed per rush. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Dukes are now one of the best units against the pass as well as the run. JMU boasts the nation’s sack leader and has three players with 15.5 or more tackles for loss. That is pretty good. 

Oh! And the next best team in the Sun Belt, Troy? JMU already beat them head-to-head at Troy’s place and Troy only beat Georgia State by 21 earlier this season. I’m only half kidding about the transitive property aspect of the win… 

The Dukes are elite across the board and I am ready to proclaim they are the best team in the Sun Belt, and honestly the Group of 5. 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season.

The Coaching Staff Post Bye Week Has Been Excellent 

The coaching staff needs a shout out.

Going into the bye week undefeated it could have been easy for them to not make any changes. The Dukes were 5-0 with three difficult road wins and fresh off a 31-23 win against South Alabama. It would have been easy and understandable if no changes were made at that point in the season. 

But instead, they looked in the mirror and made some major changes. 

Since the bye week, JMU has become even more dominant across the board. 

Over the course of the first four games against FBS opponents, the Dukes ran the ball on first down 62 percent of the time and mustered a successful run on just 45 percent of those runs. Before the bye JMU managed a successful play on just 48.64 percent of first downs. 

Now, on the other side of the bye week, JMU passes it on first down more than running and manages a successful play about 51 percent of the time. The coaching staff saw that early down play calling was an issue and fixed it. Now, the Dukes are the third best team in the conference in Early down EPA. 

JMU post bye week has also gotten better in just basic statistical categories. The Dukes are averaging 21 more rush yards per game on five less carries and are averaging a whole yard more per rush. To go along with that, the Dukes are averaging 40 more pass yards per game and are scoring one extra point per game. Then defensively, JMU is holding opponents to 144 less pass yards and 12 less points per game. 

And maybe the most eye popping adjustment has occurred in second half scoring. 

JMU was dominant ‘on script’ before the bye week, outscoring opponents by a combined 47 points in the first half through the first four games. The issue, and the reason for all the late game meltdowns, was the lack of scoring in the second half. The Dukes were outscored by 29 points in the third and fourth quarter.

Post bye week, JMU has outscored teams by 28 in the first half and a whooping 42 in the second half. A complete 180 to how JMU started the season. 

It was evident in the Georgia State win how well this coaching staff has adjusted as the season has rolled on. They aren’t married to one certain philosophy on offense and the fact the staff as a whole has learned from the shortcomings is promising heading into the future of the FBS era. 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season.

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